For some reason, every chick flick / rom-com I’ve seen (I can count them on one hand) that involves a cooking scene features some ho-hum salad and pasta. I don’t get why that’s supposed to be the standard “romantic dish”. Hell if that was the case why didn’t you just go down to the local deli and get a tub of Fettucine Alfredo or Spaghetti Bolognese? Yes yes….cooking it at home is infinitely sexier. But there are infinitely more simple dishes that can impress the date.
Enter the gnocchi. Exotic sounding, bite-sized (ie…no wrestling with long and slippery noodles), and with some texture contrast. Pair that with some spiced sausage and you’ve got a killer side or main! If you’re feeling extra brave, you can make the gnocchi yourself since it’s not too hard but store-bought is perfectly fine.
I paired the gnocchi with some spiced lamb in a tomato sauce but you’re welcome to use other meats like lamb meatballs or cubed beef.
At less than 5 ingredients, this is dish wins on both simplicity and ability to impress.
Serves 4 (as a small side dish)
Equipment (other than the usuals):
2 saute pans (if you only have 1, you’ll have to cook the gnocchi first and set it aside)
1 pack Merguez sausage (Merguez is a North African, spiced sausage. You can also use chorizo, spiced Italian sausage, or even a regular brat if you’d like), sliced about 1/2″ thick
1 pack potato gnocchi
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 a red onion or 1 shallot, finely diced
3 – 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 tbsp. butter
Dried herbs of your choosing (I used dill. You can also use thyme or rosemary)
Fresh herbs to garnish (I used parsley but you can also use cilantro or basil)
1 tbsp. tomato paste (optional if you’d like to thicken the sauce for you lamb)
1 tbsp. of lemon juice (optional for drizzling at the end for brightness)
To cook the lamb:
1) Heat half the butter in a pan on medium-high.
2) Saute the onions and garlic until fragrant and slightly translucent (about 1 min.)
3) Toss the lamb in and cook until brown (about 5 – 8 mins.). Turn the lamb once in a while to get a nice even sear.
4) Add the tomato. The juices from the tomato should seep out and start to boil. Once that happens, reduce the heat to a medium low and simmer the lamb in the tomato sauce for at least 15 mins.
(Note: If the sauce is a little too watery for your liking, add a tbsp. of tomato paste or a bit of cornstarch dissolved in water to thicken).
5) Season with salt & pepper.
To cook the gnocchi:
You can start cooking this during step 3 or 4 of the lamb above.
1) Heat the rest of the butter in a separate pan on medium and add the dried herbs to flavor the oil.
2) Toss the gnocchi in and saute until golden brown and crispy on the outside (about 3 mins. per batch).
Be careful not to get the pan too hot (the gnocchi will burn on the outside while the inside stays doughy) or too cold (the oil will seep into the gnocchi and turn it soggy).
Spoon some gnocchi onto a plate or bowl, top it with the lamb, garnish with some herbs, and watch as you impress your date with something other than the usual boxed pasta.